Fortnightly Magazine - December 2010
How the new standards affect utility balance sheets.
Over the next year (or years), companies in Canada and the U.S. will make the transition towards adopting International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). These standards will have a substantial effect on the reporting requirements and financial disclosures of regulated companies. Utilities are preparing their accounting processes to meet a new regulatory standard.
Higher prices to come?
For decades, global uranium suppliers have been providing low cost reactor fuel in plentiful supplies. However the market is changing, and nuclear fuel prices are set to increase. Some plants will be affected more than others, but the age of uranium cost certainty is coming to an end.
What California can teach FERC about transmission planning.
The California ISO is going its own way with its proposal for transmission planning, virtually ignoring FERC’s proposed rules on transmission planning and cost allocation. California wants to bring method to the madness of developing transmission projects, and its approach has raised hackles in the industry. The dispute defines the battle over America’s most attractive market for rate-regulated investment.
Waste fuels struggle despite coal’s decline.
Fuel supply might be the biggest barrier to scaling-up biomass power generation, but it’s by no means the only problem. Utility projects to repower coal-fired plants face permitting challenges, ballooning technology costs and strained economics. Some owners are giving up the fight.
A new future for small coal-fired plants.
Small coal-fired plants are particularly vulnerable to economic and environmental pressures, putting some plant owners in what seems like a no-win position. But an emerging option—biocoal from crop wastes—might give small coal units a new lease on life.
In-state green mandates face Constitutional challenges.
In effort to promote local green energy resources, some states are enacting policies that tread on federal authority. Restrictions on power imports to satisfy RPS requirements might violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Can the states foster home-grown energy without running afoul of federal laws?
Avoiding pitfalls, realizing benefits.
Unlike the first generation of domestically sourced plants, new reactors being built in America will draw from a global supply chain for a wide range of materials, equipment and services. This poses a more complex set of challenges, from obtaining talent and material to qualifying and validating product sources.
Evaluating smart meters and public backlash.
After ratepayers brought a class-action lawsuit against distribution utilities, Texas regulators commissioned a study of the state’s new smart meters. The study explains why customers reacted the way they did, and offers insights into how the industry can avoid a Texas-style backlash.
Building a workforce for today’s utility landscape.
Utilities can attract a new generation of employees by emphasizing the transformation the industry now faces, and the immense opportunity it creates. Matching mature workers’ vast experience with new technologies can provide unique perspectives that knowledge of new technologies alone can’t provide.